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Monday, March 21, 2011

Lumberton Coastal 400K

In, then out, then in again (referring to my registering for the ACP 400K held March 19). I made an appearance at the Lumberton NC Super 8 around 7 am, arriving with about 2 hours of sleep behind me. Skies were perfectly clear for the close to 60 riders who had signed up for one of Tony Goodnight's early season brevets (200, 300, 400, 600). Tony was a busy man in the control room, as money changed hands, waivers were signed, and control card packets handed out. We departed en masse at 7:30, with everyone following the same route for the first 30 miles. I managed to keep up with a group pulled along by Vance, who was setting a good clip of 19 or 20. RicoBoy Rob jumped for the first county line sprint, but paid for it later when he started having stomach issues. Needless to say, the Hot Shot crew had left us slower folks several miles back, but we would start seeing them again (those doing the 300) when they reversed course after the first 200/300 control at 30 miles. The 400/600 riders had 14 miles to go before checking in at a control. By this time I was trailing the group of half a dozen I had started with, and they took off before me. Rob pulled in, followed by Robert "Ricochet" Bergeron (doing his first 600K). The three of us stayed together until mile 58 (second 400K control), at which point Robert encouraged me to have a great solo ride. Well, it did go well until about mile 91, when I hit a stiff headwind that I battled for the next 9 miles. Dave Miller from Columbus OH was sitting on the sidewalk of the control store in Hallsboro, looking kind of beat. He said he was not used to the heat this early in the year. I watched Dave leave on his Bike Friday, hung around a few minutes, and contemplated the fact that we had just completed a century but were not even half done.

I caught up with Dave about half a mile from the next control (131 miles) and held his wheel while we ground up one of the "hills" of the ride (an overpass). Dave takes less time at controls than I do, so I would not see him again until Sunset Beach (143 miles), where the Continental Motel/Condo served as a control. Jennifer had a spread of food and drinks set up in the room. As I looked over the check list of riders, I exclaimed "There's no way Keith Sutton can be behind me! He must have forgotten to check his name when he was here." I did cross paths with JoAnn F about a mile from the new Sunset Beach bridge, but this control would be the end of my having any contact with other riders. Dave left before me, and the cool evening temperatures along with mostly diminishing winds must have given him an extra boost.

It was another 35 miles to Tabor City SC (not a control, but a place to replenish supplies). It was here as I was waiting for more coffee to finish brewing that the first hints of discouragement began to appear. Like, if I had signed up for 300K, I would only be 15 miles from the end. My stomach isn't doing great. These energy bars taste lousy. I didn't put any sun screen on my legs and they are burned. Riding at night solo in rural NC for hours doesn't thrill me.

Time to hit the road and shake off these negative thoughts. The cue sheet said take a right out of the gas station onto US 701 Business. So I go out the same way I came in and turn right. The road curves to the left but the sign says US 701. I bounce along a rough road with no shoulder for a mile, looking for the next turn. It doesn't appear. So I pull a U turn and ride back to the gas station. There I explain my predicament and was kindly given directions. Turns out I should have gone out the other side of the parking lot before turning right. Ah, back on course. 26 miles to the next control at Boardman doesn't sound too bad, even though I know the store wouldn't be open and it was just an information control. However, the 26 miles included some sections with DOGS, which are a problem in daylight but worse at night. All I can say is county line sprints don't hold a candle to dog sprints. You forget all about sore knees and aching arms when a dog (or pack of them) is on your tail. How I wished for a nice 18 wheeler to be barreling down the road the same time those dogs hit the pavement!

I slogged into the information control at Boardman (205 miles), sat on the sidewalk and tried to eat. I thought about the next 46 miles and then remembered that was not a good thing to do. Just get on the bike and pedal to the next turn. More dogs. More sprints. A lighted church building with a good looking porch. Even has a semi soft mat. Better not lie down or I won't get up. So I sit on the steps and sort of doze. 10 minutes later it is time to go. I carefully go down the steps and look around for my bike. Gone! What happened? Dummy, it is still up on the porch leaned against the building. I'm starting to zone out. Back on the road, I start seeing what look like big shrubs in the sky with faces like the Greek comedy masks, all laughing at me. As I draw closer, they just kind of fizzle away. Finally arrive at the penultimate control in Clarkton. Convenience store closed at 2 am and it is now 2:30. That's ok, I knew I wouldn't make it (control cut off time was another 5 hours, so there is plenty of time in the bank). The clerk closing up sees me and comes out to sign the card. I mix up my last batch of energy drink using the extra bottle of water. I seem to have new enthusiasm now and my little bout of nausea has disappeared. Let's get going! Even though the wind has picked up a bit and I could use a vest under my jacket, I'm feeling pretty good for the final 28 miles. I pull into the Super 8 at 5:30 am and wake up Tony as I stumble into the room. It's over. Another tough 400K behind me. I find out from Tony that Dave was almost done in by dogs - he had one bite him (minor, not like Tom F's on a permanent earlier this year). I get cleaned up and crash for a few hours, then over to the Waffle House with Tony before heading home.